Once upon a time (well, for about 10 years actually) I used to sing for a living, accompanying myself on guitar, mostly playing songs from the Swing Era, mixed in with a bit of blues and jazz. Sadly, little survives in the way of decent recordings or even pictures from my singing career, but here are a few fuzzy renditions that give a hint of what I did (and, to a much lesser extent, still do)
The only existing video of me singing in the 1980s
This is not the song I’d like to be remembered for, but it’s all I have from my early singing career. I didn’t much like the song, but I’d learned it for a regular gig in a Tex-Mex restaurant, and it was quite appropriate for this Sunday lunchtime gig where my role was to add atmosphere, not to bring down the house. You can tell I’d barely woken up after the Saturday night gig before it (where I would not have been sitting down!).
Recordings from the Greys pub in Brighton, 1987.
These started out OK but the quality decayed horribly over the years. Sorry for the fuzziness and distortion, but I rather like them. Apart from Georgia Brown (with the late Mike Mann on spoons), it’s just me and my guitar. I’d just done the National Busker’s Carnival earlier that day (and came second). My recently born first son was in the audience and my wife said she could feel my voice vibrating through his head. I hope it did him no harm (he turned into one of the loveliest adults I’ve ever known, so I guess it couldn’t have been that bad).
Buddy can you spare a dime (Harburg & Gorney)
In the mood (Garland & Razaf)
Sweet Georgia Brown (Bernie, Pinkard & Casey) (with Mike Mann on spoons)
A few songs from around 2001
I did these as I was trying to get the hang of making digital recordings, made in my office at home. They’re very quick and dirty, with a very small amount of double-tracking on the guitar solos, but the quality is a little higher than the earlier live recordings.
Guilty (Whiting, Akst, & Kahn)
Every time we say goodbye (Porter)
So Tired (Morgan & Stuart)
2010s – present
In December 2010 my wife bought me a saxophone, starting me on a process of learning a new instrument a year, which I’ve been doing ever since. I’ve never learned any of them at all well, but I love the way it forces me to use different muscles and new ways of thinking and feeling. This rendition of St James Infirmary is from 2011, about a year into my sax learning process (I’m not really any better at it now). It is also my first attempt at multitrack recording with Garageband on the iPad. There were some sync and balance issues, not to mention lots of fluffed notes, but I rather like the very raw and wonky way that it turned out:
I later got to stay in the hotel that is claimed to be the site of the actual St James Infirmary. How cool is that?
In 2012 I gatecrashed the OpenEd conference cruise as there happened to be a few of my friends at the conference, and the cruise boat happened to be leaving from a dock that is about 10 minutes away from where I live by False Creek Ferry. After a drink or three or four, I joined in the jamming session, and someone recorded it. I should note that I usually sing this song (Summertime) half an octave lower, and mostly with far less alcohol, for reasons that may be painfully apparent…
Here is a rough rendition of how I normally sing Summertime, recorded at a live open-air performance in Leg-in-boot Square, Vancouver, August 2020. The recording is a bit awful: it was really windy and I just left a recording device sitting on the mic stand with no wind protection, right next to the guitar, so the balance is all wrong, the sound is wobbly, and I was wearing a full-face shield, which made my voice sound a bit distorted and boomy. It was a nice (socially distanced) crowd, though….
Here’s a video of me singing ‘I wanna be like you’ in Donnellan’s pub, Granville St, Vancouver…
This is ‘Istanbul’, from my Pie Shoppe session in 2018
This is Pennies from Heaven, from a live performance in Leg-in-boot Square, Summer 2021. It was one of the few rather rainy days in the summer of ’21…
So of course I also had to sing Stormy Weather…
And here’s Blue Moon (Rogers and Hart) from the same session because it was around the time of the Blue Moon…
Stuff I’ve written
I used to write a lot of songs but I don’t do it so much any more. Here are a couple from recent years. I made the recordings myself and, to make things worse, I sang and played all the parts…
Dogme (the Lars Von Trier song) 2021
Sing for your smile, 2022
And here’s an oldie, written in the mid 80s and recorded in the early 2000s…
Only human, about 1985 (recorded about 2001)